Define Your “Why” and then Lead Others to Define Theirs

My daughter, like many 10-year-olds and younger, has probably asked this simple one word question more than any other.


As adults we eye roll after this question is asked repeatedly, often because it’s the first in a series of “why” questions and the more it’s asked, the more the answer is not easy to come up with.

Perhaps it’s because we have not spent as much time considering “why,” and have not even been asking it to others.

I was recently part of a group that was asked about how we define ourselves as leaders, what characteristics define us as a leader and in what spaces should we choose to lead?

It was a group I was grateful to be a part of. It all started with an ominous invitation from my friends at Lululemon La Jolla. Other than being asked to meet at a train station at a specific time and to dress in layers, myself and a dozen or so others had zero idea of where we were going and what we were doing.

On the train ride, which started in Old Town San Diego, we were still clueless as to our final destination. We traveled north, along the San Diego coastline, meandering through stations in Sorrento Valley, passing stops in Solana Beach and Oceanside.

From our windows we watched surfers drop in on waves and as a group listened to a this keynote given by Simon Sinek at a Creative Mornings gathering in San Diego.

And finally, one hour into our journey we stepped off the train in San Juan Capistrano.

A short Uber ride later and our toes were in the sand at Doheny State Beach. After laying out blankets, LED candles and wishing we had brought boardshorts and surfboards, we sat around and engaged in the discussion of leadership.

In November 2016, I had the chance to go on an excursion with Lululemon staff and others to discuss becoming leaders in our own commmunities.

In November 2016, I had the chance to go on an excursion with Lululemon staff and others to discuss becoming leaders in our own commmunities.

Becoming A Leader In Your Community
A major tenant of Lululemon is the idea of creating communities. Its stores around the world have designated staff who are tasked with building programs and events that incorporate the communities its store are in. This in addition to restocking the shelves with yoga pants, breathable shirts and other pieces of Luon.

We explored the idea of how we are leaders in our own communities. It became thought provoking for me, as I had to think about what “community” meant to me.

And while it may seem that community is relegated to a geographic area, workplace, social group, family or other numerous examples, the true answer is that it is whatever space you choose to lead.

Inspired by the Simon Sinek keynote we listened to, I researched some of his other stuff and found this Ted Talk

In it, Sinek explains, your leadership must be built around the idea that you lead followers that are invested into WHY you do what you do … not WHAT you do or HOW you do it.

Finding Your Why
Sinek explains how individuals, companies and others fail at leadership because they get so caught up in selling themselves solely based on what they do and how they do it. As consumers when we are seeing everyone else explaining the same types products and services, our buying decisions are made on factors such as price and not quality. But when we understand our why -- and when our marketing leads with the “why” -- we filter out the people that are just looking to spend less. We begin to attract the people that care about why we do what we do. We inadvertently become leaders.

Look at this example for two DJ’s selling themselves.

DJ #1
WHAT: I am a DJHOW: I use my computer, turntables and speakers to play music at parties and events and for your event I will do this for $1,000.

DJ #2
WHAT: I am a DJ
HOW: I use my computer, turntables and speakers to play music at parties and events and for your event I will do this for $750.

Based on that information, who do you want to contract and pay? Without the explanation of why they are DJs -- the passion they may or may not have for what they do -- you would probably opt for the one priced less.

In this next example, and how I’m structuring my pitches, I add the “why” and reverse the order of the explanation process.

DJ Kanoya
WHY: I want to make things better. Whether that’s your wedding or special event or yoga class. I want to make that experience better for you and your guests.

HOW: By using music, I create a vibe and feeling for all the different moments that unfold throughout the event.

WHAT: And I get to do this because I am a DJ.

Potential clients will be attracted to your why. And not only will paying customers be attracted to that why, but others who share your thought process will gravitate toward you because they want to be led by another like minded individual.

Finding My Why
On multiple levels this past year has been incredibly enlightening -- as a DJ, entrepreneur, parent, friend, husband, etc. I’ve spent many grateful hours with other DJs in person and online discussing ways to be more successful. But on this particular day, here I was sitting on a beach, and I looked around where I was surrounded by a photographer, a handful of yoga teachers, other self-employed entrepreneurs, an individual that works for a non-profit and of course Lululemon staff. It was refreshing to know that coming up with ways to build my own business and to be successful and to become a leader didn’t need to to stem from a discussion with other DJs or other people in my industry.

In fact, everyone in that circle was picked because we were likely channeling our “why.” We are choosing to be leaders in our communities. But it’s our “why” that brings us together.

A sampling of the group:

Kat Gunsur is more than an employee of a non-profit organization … she wants to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis throughout the endurance race community and gets to do so as the National Endurance Manager for Team Challenge.  

Todd LeVeck is more than a photographer … he loves to tell stories and gets to do so because he has a way of telling his stories through his art.

Jenna Zabrosky is more than a yoga teacher … she’s been told by others that she goes out of her way to make those that walk into the studios she teaches at feel welcome. Others pick up on that and in turn lift the people around them. She leads by example and is in a position to do that because she teaches yoga.

And I am more than a DJ …. I love inspiring change, whether that is through music at an event I am spinning at or helping other DJs and entrepreneurs find their own path to success, and I get to do that because I am a DJ.

It’s not about what we do. It’s about why we do it.

Maybe my daughter had it right after all Because she knows the most important question to ask is “why?”

Five Ways Instagram Helped Me Book a Wedding Client


Imagine my surprise (and satisfaction) when “Instagram” was the answer to the question “How did you hear about DJ Kanoya.” I was even more ecstatic when that inquiry turned into a signed contract for a 2017 wedding.

I booked a wedding because of Instagram (well, there were certainly other factors), but there is no doubt that Instagram was the catalyst.

By dedicating part of my marketing plan to Instagram it has elevated it to one of my most important (and cheapest) marketing tools to my business.

Here are five tips that I believe were instrumental in this sales conversion.

A quick note: This was written from a DJ’s perspective, but the tips are applicable to anyone looking to maximize the marketing benefits of Instagram.

Create an Account
This should be obvious, but this potential client would not have found me if I wasn’t on Instagram. She was routed to me via a photo that was on the Brick account (@bricksd). Brick is an event venue in San Diego, where her wedding is taking place. Brick was taking photos during an event I was DJing and their social media rep came up and asked for my account name so she could tag me.

That photo tag, led this customer to my account, which led to my website, which eventually led to a booking.

Potential followers and customers will tap on your user name and take a quick scroll at your three photo wide feed and make a determination if you are someone they want to follow or potentially do business with.

Potential followers and customers will tap on your user name and take a quick scroll at your three photo wide feed and make a determination if you are someone they want to follow or potentially do business with.

High Quality, Relevant Photos
Instagram is a visual social media platform and it is important for your account to be visually appealing. The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is so true, especially when it comes to Instagram. Users scroll through their newsfeed to primarily look at those square images, not to read descriptions and comments. You have seconds (maybe even less) to capture someone’s attention and get them to look - and potentially read - your content.

As a DJ, users and potential users follow me because I am a DJ. I keep them engaged because my feed is filled with photos of me all centered around that aspect. My account is made up of photos from weddings, yoga sessions and corporate events. I also create infographics about music or about me as an entrepreneur. But the constant is always me as a DJ, providing a glimpse of moments from my vantage point.

I do not post photos of food, my wife and I strolling on a beach or my daughter in her Halloween costume. Because as amazingly cute as my daughter is dressed as a 50s soda shop girl, my Instagram followers are not following me to see that.

Instagram is a powerful, slick option to show off your business. When posting to it, consider if the image is something you would want inserted into your businesses printed brochure or other marketing material. When thinking about it in those terms, you likely wouldn’t be putting a random image of a bowl of soup or your cat in your DJ brochure.

Posting non-relevant content is the quickest way for your followers to lose interest and subsequently unfollow your account.

Potential followers and customers will tap on your user name and take a quick scroll at your three photo wide feed and make a determination if you are someone they want to follow or potentially do business with. Having a professional appearance, via those photos, is important.

“Nice pictures” are nice for a reason. They are composed and framed properly (google search “rule of thirds). Attractive photos have colors that are enticing and the subject matter in the photo is interesting, and most importantly relevant to your business.

If you do not have a knack for photography, consider taking an introductory class or looking through online tutorials or books. When it comes to editing, I use Snapseed on all of my photos. There are many mobile tools, but Snapseed definitely does the trick for me.

Regularly Scheduled Posts
This tip is important to consider as a means to retain your followers, but also to entice new ones. Have you ever scrolled through your feed of the people you are following and found a particular user has batch posted several photos within seconds/minutes of each other? Those photos clog up your feed and for many people this is an annoyance when they are just trying to see updates from others.

There’s no need to “live-Instagram” something. Take pictures at an event, and afterwards choose one really good one to post at an ideal time. Unlike Twitter, most of the people viewing your content are seeing it well after the event you are posting from. As a result, there is no need to post quick, unedited snapshots of something with a caption that reads “I’m here right now, come see me.” Because when someone actually views that image, you are no longer there.

Being strategic about when to schedule posts ensures you are reaching your followers at the peak times they are using Instagram. The "Insights" tab within Instagram is a host of great info such as when your followers are on Instagram, what city they are in, what gender they are and much more. 

I use the free app and website interface, Hootsuite, to schedule my posts. 

By the way, as a general rule, schedule one or two posts per day. This gives you time to carefully craft the content you are posting, taking the extra effort to edit the photos (using Snapseed or other photo editing program) and writing a good caption for those that are taking the time to read it.

Engaging with users is the key to social media success. In this example, @thatjenncheng commented about the lighting and I made sure to thank her.

Engaging with users is the key to social media success. In this example, @thatjenncheng commented about the lighting and I made sure to thank her.

Engaging with Your Audience
Engaging with followers is one of the primary recommendations of social media. As such Instagram is a two way street. To build your following and legitimize what you are doing, you need to engage with the users that are taking the time to engage with you. This means if someone leaves a comment, acknowledge it with a thank you. If they ask a question, answer it.

You should be taking time to search through Instagram for users similar to your line of business and within your industry. Like, comment and follow when appropriate. As you start to build a network of social media followers and followings, you are creating connections with other vendors and potential clients.

Relevant Hashtags
As I mentioned earlier, this client found me because her wedding venue’s Instagram account tagged me in a post. This is important information to note and to understand that this is one method your potential customers are conducting research.

Yes, people are “Googling”, but they are also likely hitting the “image” button, especially true for people planning their wedding who want to see what previous weddings and events looked like at their venue.

This is why hashtagging your photos is important. Hashtags, when used properly, are a direct pipeline to you from potential customers and followers. Despite the fact that generic tags such as “wedding” or “DJ” are being searched by millions at any given time, it still gets your content viewable to potentially millions for a few seconds. But more specific tags such as a venue name, or even “wedding DJ” have a little longer shelf life.

According to Quora, the number of hashtags allowed per post is 30. “That includes # in the caption and the comments section both. Instagram doesn't allow more than 30 hashtags per post. That said, some of the hashtags are filtered to prevent spamming.”

As DJs trying to maintain sanity on the plethora of marketing opportunities available, not to mention the horde of social media platforms to try and keep with, realize you do not need to use all of them. However, the marketing and social media tactics you do choose to engage in should be managed strategically and most importantly used properly.

The Importance Of Surrounding Yourself With Life

Meeting up with Rinny a few weeks after we returned her to the Barking Lot rescue shelter. 

Rinny's bed sits in the same corner, just unoccupied, unless I lay on it (it's big and comfortable).

Rinny's bed sits in the same corner, just unoccupied, unless I lay on it (it's big and comfortable).

I’ve never really considered myself a “dog person.” When I was young, I believe under the age of 10, my family had dogs on a couple of occasions. But most of my adolescent years were spent sans dog. My dog fixes have been relegated to indulging with my friends and their stories and pictures of their dogs.

As some know, my family adopted Rinny, an almost three-year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier in May. We also had to take her back to the adoption shelter after two biting incidents between her and my 10-year-old daughter.

Rinny was a part of our home and family for just three months. But three weeks after not having her in our home, I’ve realized just how important she was. And not just Rinny. Not just a dog. What I’ve realized is the importance that life, living, breathing, activation, moving … all of these things; the importance those things have when you occupy a space. 

The space could be your home or bedroom. It could be a park or an office cubicle. When we surround ourselves with living objects, we feed off that energy. It’s why there is music when you walk into the grocery store. It’s why random sculptures and art pieces are installed into public spaces. It’s the reason those feng shui books tell us to put a plant in a specific spot in our homes.

I’ve been “working from home” for nearly 15 months. We adopted Rinny nearly to the day of my one year anniversary of self employment. She quickly found her way into our hearts. But she also was cramping our schedule. Mine in particular. It was like having a toddler in the house all over again. Being away from home for more than a couple hours was out of the question.

I spent this past summer literally working from home, no longer a nomad at coffee shops around San Diego. If I was working in my office, Rinny was right there. When I moved to my DJ station in another part of the house, Rinny followed and would listen to music with me. When I needed to work in the garage, there she was, sprawled out on the concrete floor.

While I enjoyed her company, I also missed leaving the comforts of home to work elsewhere. It was my way of being around other people and being around their energy. That energy also included the sounds of the milk frother; the beeps of credit card machines; the hum of the music in the restaurant creeping past my earbuds and mixing in with the music in my ears.

With Rinny, I had her energy while I was at home. But more importantly, returning home to her I found an energy that I never knew was missing.

On the occasions that I or my family would leave her at home, we knew returning would always be an adventure. First there was her excitement of seeing us. Then it was looking around  to see what she may have chewed on. There was the inevitable fixing of couch pillows and area rugs that were tossed around. There was sweeping and cleaning of any small messes that she made.

Rinny's always overly excited greeting when I come home.

We were no longer just walking in the door and plopping down on the couch. We didn’t have to “wake” up the house -- open windows, doors, curtains, etc. Rinny was there the whole time keeping the house alive and warm.

I even noticed how much more alive the house was when my wife, Sheila, would return home from work. Rinny was of course excited to see her, but so was Sheila. And she would prepare to take her for an evening walk, which followed with refreshing her water and food bowls.

As humans we settle into a routine. And Sheila walking through the door doesn’t seem like an occasion to get excited and anxiously greet her. Or maybe it should be?

So here were are, a month into a dog-less life and walking in the door to complete silence is strange. Obviously being at home is a completely different experience. I’ve lost my shadow, the living, breathing thing that was giving me energy.

Rinny was never a barker. But man it’s really quiet without her around.

I think I may need to get a plant.

Take It? Or Leave It? How to Find The Right Job

Deciding on when to accept a job comes down to three questions

Making a decision on a job prospect is rarely easy.

Making a decision on a job prospect is rarely easy.

We’ve all been there. When we have a job, gig, opportunity or payday staring us right in the face. Some days saying yes to a job is easy as saying yes to yet another slice of pizza (because there really is never too much pizza). But sometimes, for whatever reason, saying yes is a struggle. Or maybe saying no is the difficult part. Why?

Is the pay not what you were hoping for? Does the outward appearance of the opportunity not seem enjoyable? Does it look like you are just going to be bored if you do take it?

It could be any or all of these. And the way to figure it out is to ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Will this job challenge me?
  2. Will I enjoy this job?
  3. Will this job pay me what I am worth?

Before going any further, I must credit this topic to Erin Youngren, one-half of the San Diego-based wedding photography team, The Youngrens. I was watching a webinar she was giving about how wedding vendors should focus on finding their ideal clients and the way to go about doing that. She brought up those three questions as a best practice methods to finding that ideal client.

These questions really stuck with me because they are perfect to consider for independent contractors, the self-employed and even for those seeking a “traditional nine to five” job

Reason being, we would all love to work with our “ideal clients” 100% of the time; or work for a company that is ideal for us, but the reality is … reality. We have bills to pay, creative energy that needs to be exercised and a yearn to feel fulfilled.

Enjoying a job where you are being creatively challenged and being paid for that is the nirvana we strive for. However, we can’t always bat three for three.

But if you can answer "yes" to two of those three aforementioned questions, then that job just might be worth taking.

Here is a look at the three possible combinations:

Combination #1: Fueling Your Soul
A job that is challenging and fun, but doesn’t pay much (A + B)
These are the type of jobs we volunteer for because we believe in the cause or enjoy being with the people we are working with. It satisfies our soul, but not our wallet. These opportunities should complement paid opportunities and when handled correctly can facilitate potentially important connections.

Combination #2: Show Me The Money
A challenging job that pays well but is not enjoyable at all.  (A + C)
Sometimes the pay is just too good, and maybe the potential job has nuances that will challenge you and help you learn new skills. But never do it “just for the money,” because you will almost always regret it.

Combination #3: The Status Quo
A job that is enjoyable and pays well but is not challenging (B + C)
What’s not to love about getting paid to do something? But you need to be careful and selective about these jobs, because eventually you could get stuck in the inevitable feeling of complacency.

I think about the opportunity I had to DJ at a 50’s style diner. I grew up listening to my oldies music because that’s what my parents listened to. So getting paid to take the role of a 50s era radio DJ while getting a free meal during my shift seemed great. But then I realized the monotony of it. Eventually, I would just feel like I was just clocking in, clocking out? I knew it was unlikely to challenge and persuade me to learn new skills.

Until I heard Erin mention these questions, I’m certain I had not consciously asked those questions myself. In fact, it is likely I focused on one when considering a job. The key takeaway for me, and all of you, is to take on a mix of these combinations. 

We need to earn a living, but it should not be at the expense of shying away from your values or falling into the trap of complacency.

Finding the perfect job or the perfect client doesn’t happen by waiting for it or for them to show up. It happens by engaging in and deciding which ones are right for you when opportunities present themselves.

Dear Lululemon: You’re Doing It Right ... And This Has Nothing To Do With Clothes

This letter is to no one in particular at Lululemon. It could be a customer service manager, marketing director, executive Vice President or maybe even CEO Laurent Potdevin himself. 

This letter is to anyone at Lululemon who would find it comforting to know you are doing it right. And I’m not just speaking about your product line, because yes that is all kinds of right, but I’m speaking about your corporate culture. 

The values you instill in your employees and the way they carry those values through the customer experience, it’s all working.

Where is this coming from? Let’s take a step back to just over a year ago.

My wife and daughter enjoy frozen treats at the 2015 Seawheeze Half Marathon race expo. 

Are you familiar with the movie “Sliding Doors”? The lead character, played by Gwenyth Paltrow, faces a crossroad at the beginning of her day as she descends upon a stairwell at a subway station. In one scenario, she snags her coat on a handrail causing her to miss her train by just seconds. In the other scenario, she does not miss the train. The movie goes on to explore how different her life plays out based on the outcome of those two scenarios. 

In life, we also have these scenarios. A missed train or bus; a missed green light; dorming on the fifth floor instead of the fourth floor freshman year in college. The outcomes of these varying experiences affect who we meet, who we become friends with and the direction are lives go.

At the age of 40, I have had many “sliding door” situations. I can pinpoint two that I would label as “life changing.”

The first was a phone call I made that ultimately led to an internship during college, which led to my first job out of college, which led to another job, which led to meeting my wife, which led to  … well you get the idea.

The second of these moments was in February 2014 when I decided to attend a free run club meetup organized by the Lululemon store in La Jolla, California. The announcement, posted on Facebook, promised a healthy dose of hill work. This was something I needed because I was running the “hilly” La Jolla half marathon just a few weeks later. Had there been no mention of hills, I probably would not have attended. I didn’t really have any other incentive as I was already participating in another run group and I wasn’t necessarily looking to find another social group. I just wanted to learn a little hill running technique. 

I showed up, met Lululemon run ambassador, Sheri Matthews, and had a great workout. The following week I returned and eventually became a regular attendee through the spring and summer. 

During those months I met a lot of people and I got to know them as we shared running miles. I also learned of another free workout group, November Project, and started regularly attending those workouts in late August. At this point I was inadvertently expanding my social circle and getting into the best shape of my life.

Many of the people I was training with each week were employees from the various San Diego based Lululemon stores. I was also meeting other ambassadors such as Helen Cloots and newly crowned run ambassador and November Project San Diego co-leader, Lauren Padula

Through my interactions with ambassadors (whether at a workout or a casual conversation) and the employees (whether at a workout or shopping) I was also learning more about Lululemon’s culture.

I saw how these people were setting goals and committing to them. I saw how nonsense of the past didn’t bother them and it was all about forward thinking. I realized that the life we create is just that … it is the life we create. It doesn’t need to be dictated by someone else. Only we have the power to write our own history and make the best of whatever “sliding door” we take.

I also watched as people around me were leaving their jobs and diving directly into a life that means something to them.

And so I did the same thing.

I delivered this message to my co-workers the day I announced I was leaving my "day job" after a 13-year career in public service.

After years of pondering and 13 years in the same government job, I walked away to build up a mobile DJ business that I have half-committed to for the past decade. The decision to do that was not an easy one. But I realize the trigger to make that decision all stems back to that one day I said “yes” to attending a hilly, Lululemon run club workout.

You’re doing it right Lululemon. The values you instill in your employees means they carefully choose who their local ambassadors are. It’s not just someone that looks good in your clothes, but someone that also breathes the same values you hold important. 

These employees have also become my friends, both offline and online. 

When is the last time you “Facebook friend requested” a retail sales clerk … probably never?

I’ve started to brand myself as both a fitness and yoga DJ, providing beats for Lululemon shoppers and one very special yoga event at Parq San Diego nightclub.

On occassion I have the privilege of DJing for Lululemon customers at Fashion Valley Mall and downtown La Jolla. 

Lululemon run ambassadors, Pace Beavers and all around awesome ladies, Lauren Padula (left) and Sheri Matthews. 

Running the 2015 Seawheeze Half Marathon
Now this journey has come full circle.

This past week I descended upon the homebase of Lululemon in Vancouver, B.C. to participate in the annual pilgrimage of runners and yogi’s at the Seawheeze Half Marathon. It served as the perfect bookend to this summer, which of course started in May when I quit my “day job.”

Here I was, in the beautiful city of Vancouver, with my strongest supporters, my wife and daughter who cheer me on in life and in running and I was set to run a race orchestrated by a company that has brought so many other supportive friends into my life. 

Coincidentally, two of them -- the aforementioned, Lauren and Sheri (shown in the photo on the right) -- were official pacers, running about 20 minutes ahead of me. It was poetic that ultimately Lululemon was what led me to these ladies. They’ve helped me set and achieve personal goals by following in their virtual footsteps, setting the pace for the next chapter in my life. But on this day, I was literally following them, en route to a 1 hour and 57 minute finish time.

At the end of the race -- as they do everytime I am working out with them -- there they were, with a big hug and high five.

I suppose the only way to end this would be to say thank you. Keep treating your employees right and they will continue to treat your customers right. It’s amazing how that philosophy trickles down.

Thank you.